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"The more you tighten your grip the more star systems will slip through your fingers"

Microsoft's hopes of controlling the open document world were nearing fruition after the International Standards Organization finally certified its OOXML standard at the start of April.  The ISO had already ratified ODF, the competitive open-source format from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) used heavily in Linux, but Microsoft faced a lengthy struggle to try to get its own format recognized.  Without certification it would be tough to push the format as a legitimate open document option.

Microsoft had good reason to want to control the world of open documents.  As users switch platforms and software more and more, and use an increasing amount of open source solutions, the need for a non-software specific format has surfaced.  Microsoft hoped that by making its own proprietary open-file format the preferred standard it could seize control of this budding field.

However, to Microsoft's anger, the process has now been held up by complaints.  Following rumors that Microsoft pushed the vote through and used underhanded tactics to suppress dissent, Brazil, India, South Africa, and Venezuela lent such claims credence by filing complaints against the ratification.

The ratification cannot go forward until these complaints are heard, and they must be voiced before the end of June.  The final decision of how to react to them will be handed to two management committees.  India in particular was quite vocal in its opposition.  An open letter, written by a member of the technical standardization committee in India, states that Microsoft's long and ambiguous proposed specification left it unclear what was being implemented.  He says this means that Microsoft can implement the new format however it wants, ruining the whole reason for ISO -- to promote openness.

He also accuses Microsoft of running a careful concerted smear campaign that undercut the Indian concerns.  He states:

Microsoft started filing complaints to various Indian authorities in early March 2008, claiming bias on part of several members of the committee because of their presumed membership of a group called ‘ODF Alliance India’. My Institution and its representatives are part of the group which has been falsely implicated in these complaints. Worse, the complaints have painted these organizations and their representatives, including the Indian delegation which attended the BRM, as acting against the Indian National interests. This is the most derogatory accusation to any Indian, amounting, personally for me at least, to intolerable blasphemy.

In the letter he alleges that Microsoft pressured the Indian national government to change its stance, and likely did so with other national governments as well.  He states that Microsoft behaved in a way "amounting to interfering with the governance process of a sovereign country."  He concludes, "I would like to assure all colleagues and other readers that my intentions are purely to respond to the grave provocation caused by the actions of Microsoft."

Meanwhile ODF creators OASIS tried to steal a bit of the spotlight calling for an "implementation, interoperability, and conformity" technical committee to continue ODF's openness and quality.  The entity plans on trying to bring ISO or the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) into the project.  Surprisingly Microsoft has expressed interest in joining the committee, igniting many conspiracy theories on the internet.

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RE: Why do we even need such a format?
By blaster5k on 6/11/2008 10:15:52 AM , Rating: 4
I tried using OpenOffice a couple years back, but it just had so many quirks -- even in things as basic as the text rendering. The spacing between characters was weird, making it difficult to tell where spaces were inserted. Maybe that's been addressed now, I dunno, but I've since switched back to MS Office 2000 and haven't looked back.

By TheDoc9 on 6/11/2008 10:37:26 AM , Rating: 2
google documents works well. Not as feature rich but free, available anywhere the net is, and your documents are stored nicely in one place. I wouldn't use it for my banking but I like it.

RE: Why do we even need such a format?
By Aloonatic on 6/11/2008 10:41:36 AM , Rating: 2
I seem to remember trying several Open Office variants over the last few years and they are normally pretty useful, but not quite as good, especially when it comes to spreadsheets.

Word processing is handled fairly well it seems, as most people use about 5% of what Word has to offer.

I haven't tried any more recently but the IBM open office based suit was pretty good I seem to recall.

You'll almost certainly end up going back to MS Office tho, it's just that little (and occasionally big) bit better and now not so expensive either, oh and you've grown up using it too of course.

By Spivonious on 6/11/2008 11:10:05 AM , Rating: 2
most people use about 5% of what Word has to offer.

At home, yes. Frankly, if Wordpad offered headers/footers and numbered lists I'd use it over Word, since I have no use for styles or the other more advanced features that Word offers at home.

In the office it's a different story altogether. I probably make use of at least 50%-75% of what Word offers on a weekly basis.

In fact, this post has inspired me to try programming my own word processor to fix Wordpad's flaws.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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